We added a guard, we added a wing, we added a big and we added to our depth. We’ve improved and are better able to manage our season with the depth we have. We’re not satisfied, but we think we’ve made progress. – Utah Jazz GM Dennis Lindsey
SALT LAKE CITY — Two of the newest members of the Utah Jazz were introduced Friday and both said they couldn’t be happier to be in the Beehive State as members of the Jazz organization.
George Hill, who was traded from Indiana for Utah’s first-round draft choice two weeks ago, and Joe Johnson, who was acquired through the free agent process last week, made their official debuts in a press conference at the Zions Bank Basketball Center
Boris Diaw, the third veteran player acquired by the Jazz, couldn’t make it, since he is playing in the Philippines right now with the French national team.
Hill and Johnson are both expected to play big roles for the Jazz this coming season — Hill as the likely starter at point guard and Johnson, who can play the 2, 3 and 4 positions and bring needed depth to the wing position.
“It’s a great opportunity and I’m very excited,” said Hill. “I have familiarity with some of the front office guys and the head coach. I’m looking forward to being here. I know a lot of the guys are from Indy (Gordon Hayward and Trey Lyles), so I have a little bit of a relationship with those guys. I’m looking forward to help them win games.”
The 6-foot-3 guard, who has one year left on his contract, admitted he was “very surprised” when he got a message from Indiana general manager Larry Bird, telling him he’d been traded to Utah.
“The last time I checked I was supposed to retire from Indiana,” said the Indiana native. “It was very surprising, but I know this is a business and anything can happen. I’m not upset about it. I’m in a great situation here where we have a lot of great pieces and I can fill in. I’m looking forward to getting started.”
Besides knowing Utah general manager Dennis Lindsey from his year in San Antonio and coach Quin Snyder, Hill is good friends with Lone Peak High coach Dave Evans. Hill said he was in Utah just a couple of weeks before he got traded, helping Evans at a basketball camp.
The soft-spoken Hill said his blond hairdo from last year is likely gone for good and joked that his hair might be green or blue this year. “Who knows, I like to do crazy stuff sometimes.”
He’s also looking forward to meeting longtime Jazz fan Dr. Richard Anderson, who has heckled opposing players from behind the basket for decades.
“The one thing I can remember (about playing in Utah), other than not being able to breathe because of the altitude, is the eye doctor with the chicken. The chicken man — he gets me every time.”
The 6-foot-7, 240-pound Johnson is a 15-year veteran of the NBA, having played for five NBA teams, splitting time with Brooklyn and Miami this past season. He is a seven-time All-Star and has averaged 16.9 points, 4.1 rebounds and 4.2 assists for his career.
“I’ve been around the block, man, I’ve seen pretty much everything and I’m looking forward to this new chapter,” Johnson said. “The young talent that they have and me being a veteran guy who can come in and help these guys in the right direction and knowing they were one game away from being in the playoffs — I’m looking forward to it.”
Johnson said it didn’t take much for him to agree to come to Utah on a reported two-year, $22 million contract.
He said other teams showed interest in him, but after the Jazz expressed interest and he and his agent expressed interest back, they thought it was a “great fit” because of the organization and the young talent on the roster.
Johnson said he talked to former Jazzmen Paul Millsap and Marvin Williams and both gave glowing reviews of Utah.
“Both told how great the city was and how much I would enjoy it,” he said.
Johnson also said he wasn’t worried about the reputation Salt Lake has in some NBA circles for not being an exciting place to live.
“I’ve heard so much about Salt Lake and me being from a smaller city of Little Rock I can kind of relate,” he said. “This is my pace and I said, ‘why not?’ This is a new chapter for me.”
Even though his numbers have steadily dropped off since averaging 25 points per game for Atlanta in 2006-07, Johnson says he has a lot left in the tank.
“I feel great, man. I just finished my 15th season and I feel I’ve still got a lot of basketball left,” he said. “I feel like I’ve got a lot I can contribute to this team for it to be successful.”
Lindsey added that Johnson has “a body that according to our doctors is much younger than 35. He really takes care of himself. In a lot of areas, tangible and intangible, he’ll add to the group.”
In all, Lindsey was very pleased with what the Jazz accomplished over the last couple of weeks.
“We added a guard, we added a wing, we added a big and we added to our depth,” Lindsey said. “We’ve improved and are better able to manage our season with the depth we have. We’re not satisfied, but we think we’ve made progress.”
The Jazz general manager also said that he doesn’t anticipate any more big moves before the start of training camp in September with 14 players under contract.
“As we’re currently constituted we’re full,” he said. “I would imagine more than likely this is what we’re going to look like going into the preseason.”